WASSAILING – THE PRACTICE
To Wassail: On twelfth-night, (either the new one on the 5th January or the old one on the 17th January) toast a thick slice of rustic bread and place it into the bottom of a communal bowl. Then pour in the prepared lambswool. Take the bowl out into your garden, field or orchard, with friends and family, carrying lighted torches aflame, and pots and pans to beat with wooden spoons and sticks, (with more toast to hang in the branches of the trees and more cups of lambswool to drink and splash around to bless the area).
Make noise and light, crying “wassail! wassail!” (or sing one of the many rhymes) to drive off the unwanted spirits of the old year – beat the trunks of the trees with the sticks and splash the trunks with a little Lamb’s Wool. After everyone present has taken a drink from the lambswool (from the communal wassail bowl) pour a little of the lambswool and soggy toast from the bowl into the ground around the roots of a tree and put further fresh pieces of toast, dipped in lambswool, into the branches as a token to the new spirits of the new year, and a nod to the old ways of doing things.
If wassailing the apple trees sing: “Apple tree, apple tree, we all come to wassail thee, Bear this year and next year to bloom and to blow, Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sack fills, Hip, Hip, Hip, hurrah, Holler biys, holler hurrah.” or … “Here stands a good apple tree, stand fast root, Every little twig bear an apple big, Hats full, caps full, and three score sacks full, Hip! Hip! Hurrah!”
LAMBS WOOL (Robert Herrick 1648)
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle Lambs wooll,
Adde sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too,
And thus ye must doe
To make the Wassaile a swinger.
From ‘Oxford Night Caps’, by Richard Cook, Published 1835
This mixture is sometimes served up in a bowl, with sweet cakes floating in it.
Lambs Wool is merely a variety of the Wassail Bowl, and although not common in Oxford, is a great favourite in some parts of England. The following is the origin of the term Lambs Wool, as applied to this particular beverage. Formerly the first day of November was dedicated to the Angel presiding over fruits, seeds, &c. and was therefore named La mas ubal, that is, The day of the apple fruit, and being pronounced lamasool, our country people have corrupted it to Lambs Wool. Lambs Wool was anciently often met with in Ireland, but is now rarely heard of in that country, having been entirely superseded by the more intoxicating liquor called Whiskey.
Recipe. Mix the pulp of half a dozen roasted apples with some raw sugar, a grated nutmeg, and a small quantity of ginger. Add one quart of strong ale made moderately warm. Stir the whole well together, and, if sweet enough, it is fit for use.
Original Lambswool Recipe 1863
From ‘Cups And Their Customs’ By H. Porter & G. Roberts, Published 1863
Recipe for Lamb’s Wool.
To one quart of strong hot ale add the pulp of six roasted apples, together with a small quantity of grated nutmeg and ginger, with a sufficient quantity of raw sugar to sweeten it; stir the mixture assiduously, and let it be served hot.
Of equal antiquity, and of nearly the same composition, is the Wassail Bowl, which in many parts of England is still partaken of on Christmas Eve, and is alluded to by Shakspeare in his ” Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In Jesus College, Oxford, we are told, it is drunk on the Festival of St. David, out of a silver-gilt bowl holding ten gallons, which was presented to that College by Sir Watkin William Wynne, in 1732.
Recipe for the Wassail Bowl. Put into a quart of warm beer one pound of raw sugar, on which grate a nutmeg and some ginger; then add four glasses of sherry and two quarts more of beer, with three slices of lemon; add more sugar, if required, and serve it with three slices of toasted bread floating in it.
Lambs Wool Recipe From 1633 – Unattributed Source
Boil three pints of ale; beat six eggs, the whites and yolks together; set both to the fire in a pewter pot; add roasted apples, sugar, beaten nutmegs, cloves, and ginger; and, being well brewed, drink it while hot.